⭐⭐⭐⭐ The new kid on the smart home block? - S Bruce

September 22, 2020

I’d been itching to get into the world of Smart Home equipment, but one of the things holding me back was the large number of competing brands, and not knowing which one to buy into and which ones will be obsolete within a year. So German brand H2 adding another option on the pile seems like another complication in an already complicated product field. Based on this starter kit, my initial opinion is that H2 doesn’t have the unique selling points or the various other factors it will need to become a really big-name competitor. However it does have quite a few plus points about it, so if you’re only concerned with a simple standalone system that works right now, and not concerned about whether it’ll be obsolete in ten years’ time, then it’s definitely worth considering.

These are diddy little devices, and rather sweet. Each device is so lightweight that you can just mount them with sticky velcro-style pads if you want to, or some 3M Command sticky pads (with the additional bonus that that’s damage-free to the wall etc.). As well as being small, they are very discreet, devoid of blinking lights etc.

The only device that needs cables is the gateway, requiring a power cable and an ethernet cable. The power cable is easy, since although the instructions say “you must use the provided adapter”, it takes 5V power through a microUSB cable so in fact you can use a wide range of USB power leads and plugs, allowing you to power it from a socket you’re also powering some other USB devices from if necessary.

The ethernet cable is a little less convenient, as it means the device must be nearer your router (or a secondary hub if that hub has ethernet). That will probably be fine for most, but some people might not have spare ethernet ports to hand on their router, and a ethernet hub might be required. Also, if your router is at one end of your house and you want to put your devices at the other, then potentially you may have problems with reception range. It was OK with our house, as our router is more or less in the middle, but if your house requires a BT WiFi disc or some other WiFi extender, then it’s definitely possible you’ll have reception range issues with these non-WiFi devices.

The open-close sensor is nicely subtle. It requires a fairly-strict-but-not-too-strict alignment between the two parts for it to count a door as ‘closed’, so a slightly ajar door will show as ‘open’. The two parts of the sensor can be a few millimetres apart and still register each other, which is great if you’ve not quite mounted them as flush as you might have liked.

The best bit of this kit, for me, is the teeny little weather and humidity sensor. At my office we use a Netatmo system for tracking those factors near our expensive servers, giving us nice graphs and history displays. While the data you get here is only available through the app, the functionality is essentially the same, making it definitely competitive in that regard just for the temperature sensor alone.

I have to note though that compared to the Netatmo device, whose graphs I’ve been routinely checking for years, there seems to be more inconsistency in the H2’s readings. Over the course of a day, a Netatmo graph is generally a steady curve through the day when the room warms up and cools down, and any notable kinks are generally where the heating was turned on or a door was left open. With the graphs from this device however, in the same room conditions, there are quite a few small fluctuations up and down between readings. I think it’s broadly accurate, and will certainly be valid if it warns you of any extreme temperature change, but it seems it’s not as precisely accurate as the Netatmo, if that matters to you.

I agree with Mr. T. Anderson’s excellent review on a couple of key points. Firstly, this is not an advanced security system, and a simple binary ‘open’/’closed’ sensor and some app notifications is not in the same league as a home CCTV camera or a more advanced sensor system. Gentle extra peace of mind it might be, but a proper security deterrent or criminal stopper, it isn’t.

Secondly, this is a new product and it does feel a little under-baked. For example, the app and registration process is generally very good, but the confirmation email is in German even for British buyers. The supplied adapter has a European 2-pin plug not a UK one. The app is intuitive to the point of being basic- it’s easy to learn, but feels a bit obfuscative when you want to check some of the more advanced settings.

There’s no IFTTT support for H2 yet it seems. It’s a niche interest maybe, but roll on the day when you can use IFTTT to create your own triggers or events based on this sensor data etc., like you can with Philips Hue and others.

I really like the simplicity of this system, setting it up could hardly be any easier and the app is nice and smooth. It’s nicely presented and is respectably no-fuss. However I’m not convinced it shines against its competitors for more advanced usage, and the product range maybe needs a bit more time to mature.